The Pirate's Redemption - Excerpt

After her beloved father dies, Moira MacDougall becomes chieftain of their small clan. She is tested on every level, not only by her councilors who question her every move, but also by an exiled Englishman who raids her village under the guise of a notorious pirate, Gareth Talbot.

He wants the secret weapon Moira possesses and will do anything to get his hands on it—including committing murder so he can give it to King Henry to prove his worthiness and be welcomed home.

Moira will follow her destiny and do whatever is necessary to protect her clan.

The real Gareth Talbot is through with love. His last romance did not end well. He suffered a broken heart and doesn’t trust women.

Humiliated, Gareth goes to sea and becomes a captain for MacAlpin, the pirate king. When raids along the Scottish coast are blamed on him, he seeks revenge. Nothing less than death will do.

Moira and Gareth are on different missions but seek the same goal. Can they work together and eliminate their greatest enemy, and in the process, find the one thing they didn’t know they were searching for, true love?

The Pirate's Redemption - Excerpt

Chapter One

Maiden Island, Scotland
March 8, 1267
Late morning

Not yet, Sweetheart. Be patient. I know you have more to give. Just a little more, that’s it. We’re almost there.”

Gareth Talbot stood at the helm of his ship, Fair Wind, the steering stick in one hand and the line, tight in his other. He had held her back, kept her bow-to-bow with the Avenger during the second leg of the race.

“We’ll give Kipp a taste of your best.” He pulled the line that held the bottom of the sail and coaxed more wind into the sheet. How MacAlpin goaded Kipp, an excellent captain, into taking the sailing challenge, was beyond him. A challenge? No, with Kipp, it was all about him. He hated to lose.

Water sprayed in Gareth’s face. The long, sleek, Fair Wind pulled forward.

The crowd on the shore screamed, some for Kipp and some for him. Others hawked the odds and took bets. It appeared he and his crew would do well today.

The Avenger fell behind, and Gareth glanced at Kipp. He lost the larboard sheet and scrambled for it but had to let go of the rudder oar.

While his challenger struggled with his lines, Gareth watched the small white caps, and waited. He was in the strait between Maiden and Kerrera Islands, not far from where the wind picked up.

“Get ready.” He closed his eyes and waited for the burst of brisk wind. When it came, his face broke into a wide grin. “Now, my lovely. Let Kipp and his Avenger see your pretty little stern.”

With a steady pull on the line, Gareth adjusted the sail, so it filled with more wind. He held the steering stick steady. The bow of The Fair Wind inched away from the Avenger.

Kipp yanked at the line and fought with the rudder oar and gawked at him as he passed.

“Nice day to be on the water,” Gareth shouted.

Kipp was too startled to say a word.

The gale increased, and the line tugged. Pain from his hand shot up his arm. His hand grew numb as the line ran through his fingers. Curses fell from his lips. His hand was useless, and if he didn’t take action soon, the sail would empty. He dropped the steering stick, grasped the line, and wound it around his good hand, then pulled with all his might. The sail strained and again filled with wind. With disaster avoided, he retrieved the steering stick and reset his heading. The Fair Wind pulled ahead two boat lengths and kept widening the lead.

Gareth crossed the finish line to loud cheers. His arms ached, but the look on Kipp’s face when he sped past him was worth the discomfort. He brought his ship about, so it was against the current, then let the sail go slack. Before the craft had slowed to a crawl, his men rowed out to meet him.

“Captain, another win.” His second-in-command, Sebastian, came on board and clapped him on the back. “You had me worried. Why the long wait? You usually pull ahead sooner.”

Gareth said nothing as Sebastian grabbed his hand.

Gareth’s fingers were stiff and the skin cold to the touch. The deep scars had turned red under the rope burns.

His man glared at him. “Your hand lost all feeling again. I thought this time there’d be no setback.”

Gareth pulled his hand away. “I was careless,” he lied. “What does it matter? The Fair Wind came through.”

“This isn’t the first time your hand has given way.” Sebastian crowded him. “You’re lucky that bastard Englishman didn’t completely crush your hand. Scars as deep as these take time to heal, some never do. It’s not losing the game but losing your life that worries me.”

“You’re worse than a mother. Bring the ship to her mooring, and I’ll buy you a tankard of ale to drown your worries.” Silently, he agreed with his man; he thought his hand was healed. The pain was bearable, but a hand that didn’t work at the wrong time could mean death to him and his crew.

“Oars,” Sebastian shouted. He shook his head and went to the men.

The crew quickly had the ship tied at the dock. People crowded Gareth with their congratulations. He gave them his thanks and declined their tankards. He waited on the dock while working his hand and was relieved when his fingers began to flex more easily.

The Avenger approached her mooring, and a wave of cheers rose through the crowd. Kipp threw Gareth the line, and one of Kipp’s men tied the ship to a piling.

“MacAlpin told me you didn’t like the sea. For someone who doesn’t like to sail, you do it well,” Kipp said as he got off the Avenger. “I don’t like being taken in.”

“He didn’t tell you a fish tale. I prefer to stay on land, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to sail.”

“One man handling the steering and sail on a ship this large? I will admit, I was lucky to get as far as I did. Come, have a drink, and we’ll play a game of dice—a game I play well.”

“I’m sure it is, but I don’t play games where luck decides the winner. I play games where skill is the determining factor. That is what I do well. But I’ll take that ale,” Gareth said with a smile.

* * *

“Ah, there is our winner.” MacAlpin, the pirate king, sat at the back of the tavern, holding court.

Gareth stood at the door with Kipp and surveyed the crowd. Pirates, some with a woman sitting prettily on their laps, were at the tables drinking or playing dice. Wenches strolled about filling cups and tried to avoid the down-and-out, lusty drunks in favor of those who hadn’t yet lost their coin.

Kipp grabbed an ale from a passing server and handed it to Gareth.

“To my worthy opponent.” Gareth lifted the tankard and drained it dry to the hoots and hollers of everyone in the room, then slammed the empty cup on the table. With a slap on the back, he left Kipp with his crew and moved through the room.

If he had a gold coin for every man who pounded his back, he’d be richer than MacAlpin. But he didn’t complain. The challenge benefited everyone his crew who took in respectable winnings from bets, the challenger who drank a great deal of ale, and the other men who celebrated, feasted, and whored. He continued on toward MacAlpin.

“Ta both our good fortunes.” MacAlpin raised a tankard in salute. “Yer more daring than ye realize. It will git ye in trouble someday.”

“But not today,” Gareth said as he plucked an ale from the next tray of a passing wench. “Today I celebrate by quenching my thirst and enjoying your fine company.”

“See how my men pay me honor,” MacAlpin said to those who surrounded him.

“Drinks for all,” Gareth shouted, still flushed from the wind. “And you can thank MacAlpin. All hail the king.”

Chairs scraped the floor as they were pushed back, and every man stood and saluted. “Ta th’ king.”

“Now, pass th’ ale,” someone shouted as they all settled back in their seats.

“Dinna git ta comfortable. We leave for Morvern soon. We have a delivery for Clan McInnes.” MacAlpin tilted his head to peer behind Gareth.

“On yer feet, boy. Dinna th’ McInnes teach ye manners?” MacAlpin hollered. “Congratulate our winner.”

The poor lad stood shakily his knuckles white from clasping his hands too tight.

“Congratulations, sir.” The young man was scared to death, but he did an admirable job of presenting himself. Little did he know, he had nothing to fear except possibly his father’s wrath when he returned home.

Gareth let out an awkward cough and winked at the boy. He was impressed with the boy’s bravery in the face of such odds.

“You have my thanks.” Not every pirate had to be a monster. The lad took his seat.

“Are ye sentimental?” MacAlpin stared at Gareth over the edge of his tankard.

The pirate king was in a mischievous mood. His playfulness could take many turns. Where would he go tonight?

“Th’ boy fell in love and was humiliated in front of his clan.” MacAlpin let out a chuckle.

“So, he ran off to be a pirate.” Gareth let out a disgusted snort.

“Why so cynical? Isna that what ye did when Lady Grandville—”

“I served my king as a private citizen with his letter of marque. At his request and with his protection,” Gareth said, jabbing the table with his index finger, “I pillaged and plundered his enemy’s ships. I was not a pirate.”

He glared at MacAlpin, angry because the man spoke the truth. Call it what you will, pillaging and plundering for the king made him the same as every man in the tavern but with England’s blessing. He, along with the king, MacAlpin, and his men, pursued the same things: wealth, dominance, and control of the seas.

“In th’ long run, ye joined my merry group. No’ staying in any place too long. No’ roots for ye. No woman ta hold ye in one place. When will ye admit ye’re a landless English lord in search of an estate to protect and a lady love?” The pirate king leaned forward as he spoke softly.

“Believe what ye will. But that North Star ye carry won’t help ye find yer true love no’ matter what Collin Reynolds told ye. Now is th’ time for ye ta rid yerself of Grandville.” MacAlpin sat back. “We’ll go on an adventure. Tis one way for me ta git away from th’ crowd, and ye ta dwell on other things. We’ll need yer Fair Wind and ten of yer best men. Finish yer ale. We leave before yer men are ta drunk ta sail.”

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